Chinchillas, furry rodents commonly kept as pets, are praised for their bonding ability, their practically hypoallergenic fur and their size. Chinchillas are incredibly social, and this reflects in their emotional health. You have to take great care to not harm a chinchilla's emotional well-being, as depression is common and can be fatal. In addition, depression can be a symptom of a larger health issue.
Chinchillas are among a few domestic animals good at hiding health problems. For a chinchilla, one of your first indications that anything is wrong is symptoms of depression. When depressed, a chin will eat very little, will refuse to play or interact with his toys, and will neglect to move around his cage. A depressed chinchilla may chew his fur and become indifferent to his surroundings. It's a good idea to be very familiar with your chinchilla's personality and habits so you can be aware of changes in his emotional health.
Possible Depression Causes
Chinchillas bond quickly, both with other chins and with their owners. Surviving chinchillas can go through a period of mourning and depression when a member of a bonded pair or group dies or if they're re-homed. Other causes of depression can be health issues related to burred teeth or other dental problems, digestive issues, parasites, and even a lack of proper exercise. Not allowing your chinchilla out to exercise can result in gastrointestinal stasis, leading to severe depressive symptoms in your chin.
What to Do if Your Chinchilla Seems Depressed
If your chinchilla is refusing to eat or is eating very little, and if he is exhibiting signs of depression and stress, it is important to take him to his vet. Something serious could be affecting his health, but depression may be the only symptom you see. Your vet should be familiar with chinchillas and other exotic small animals. Be sure to document what, exactly, you have been feeding your chin, as well as his typical habits and routines.
The Happy Chinchilla
Chinchillas thrive on routine, so keep to a regular schedule to help keep your chinchilla stress-free. Give your chinchilla plenty of time outside its cage to run around, explore and play. Provide stimulation through interactive toys, obstacle courses and fun things to hide in, such as baskets and boxes. Provide security for your chinchilla by holding him, cuddling with him, and simply being around him while he plays. With this care, as well as proper dental attention and a good diet, your chinchilla will live a happy, depression-free life.